In twenty years, when I glide through a furniture store on a swing board that is actually hovering, because the built-in virtual assistant recommends that I rent out its merged tripartite suite with my annual meeting subscription, it will not be the fact that they have hired a famous DJ for my hearing benefit that makes me buy. And I will not even be the champagne that will rain down from the ceiling in 15 minutes intervals.
It will be the fact that the hoverboard assistant has reminded how much I admired these fine velvet covers three years earlier, but worried that my children would hurt them. It also knows that my children now live in their own homes.
Back in today's world, we see the beginner of the retail business outsourcing profit warnings, poor sales results and lower footfalls in physical stores. Even Britain's beloved M&S announced the closure of 1
Many are looking to develop new and engaging experiences for users and often turn to technically driven experience trading to do this in the face of online competition and the rising Amazon threat. But the difference between a gimmick that can be good for generating PR or short-term sales, and an experience that monitors customer travel in a truly innovative way, is lucrative.
The role of the gimmick
The trend of retailers who open pop-ups, insert DJs to start stores or products that serve food events in the store – anything that can attract consumers to spend time in the store and engage with the brand in its physical space – has its advantages. However, this approach must be strategic, to suit the brand and to provide long-term value.
It must essentially fit into a broader plan that prioritises the overall customer experience, not just the experience right now. From order to last mile delivery, the overall customer experience encompasses the brand's relationship with customers and, once they are finished, enriches their overall shopping experience and gives loyalty.
Decking shoppers in VR headsets can get a customer through the door, and that is not bad, but smart retailers focus on data and create offline experiences that contribute to a fantastic customer journey. These experiences are based on what a company already knows about the individual customer and feeds in store shopping back to the customer profile.
For example, Charlotte Tilbury's magical mirrors in store let shoppers try to look and email them back to themselves. This increases both the customer's experience and enables the information to help adapt their experience later to the line.
FarFetch is also innovative in this space and creates a "19659002] Future Shop" as part of their Augmented Retail vision – through which the interactions between sales assistant and shoppers are improved by using data to enable better advice, and an RFID-enabled clothing shelf discovers which products a shopper is browsing and auto-populates their wish list. This physical extension of their online presence helps overcome a crucial barrier as an online retailer by smartly deploying a physical space.
The Importance of Nailing Customer Experience
Being at the receiving end of uneven customer experience was a lesson in empathy for me recently, when a reseller sent me an e-mail campaign about a store opening party. The party was over 50 miles from where I live, work or hang out. Why would I care about a store jumping that is not near me? The dealer sent this because they care about it and want to run their cool experimental offer, which for example a customer's first brand that ASOS would never do.
But being the customer first goes beyond not inviting me to irrelevant events. I also receive regular emails that tell us about discount sales in stores. Pretty good for students! But a little disappointed for me, who is a little while earlier to be eligible for these offers.
It is frustrating for me as both a consumer and a professional – these are brands that have data to exclude me from that category. It is entirely possible to ensure that customers receive messages and rewards tailored to their actual habits. And it's not just me who knows this way: a recent study by my company found that 75 percent of them feel that most retailers don't understand their interests.
Although it is easy to dazzle by the glamor of gimmicky experience trading, or to assume that some good events will bring back valuable lost customers, the reality is that any interaction a person has with a brand must be part of a customer experience.
The Offline Role is like a Relational Builder
So if paddling parties, VR headsets and pop are not a single stop shop to enhance overall experience, how can offline activation be effectively utilized? Basically, a change of mindset is necessary.
The retail trade must be an extension of a reseller's presence online, not the other way around. Creating an experience of a visit to the store is a good strategy when the model is adapted to ensure that the focus is on developing the customer relationship rather than stock shift.
Nike's running club offers an immersive experience that not only helps create an emotional connection with its customers, but also captures its data to enhance future communication, allowing for customized recommendations. This can then give rise to the way customers perceive the brand as a whole: as one who understands their needs and only always gets their right.
Experiential retailing and a valuable offline presence can be the future: but that's not the answer, just part of it. While waiting for my virtual assistant hoverboard, resellers need to double down on the data they already have and how they can use it to personalize and enhance the whole experience for their customers – and use glamorous trading as a tactile strategy.
Published March 16, 2019 – 07:30 UTC